Zoom Overload: Computers and Children’s Vision

At You & Eye we have always loved teachers. We appreciate them even more this year. They are truly heroes. Our kids remain excited about school despite it being virtual and are eager to sit at their desks and interact with their teachers. Like you, we are not thrilled with the amount of screen time kids need to succeed these days, but we appreciate the reason why.

Many parents have concerns about how screen time can affect children’s eyes and vision.

We wanted to spend just a couple of minutes to reassure you that everything will be okay despite this increase in screen time.

Computer use has not been shown to be harmful to the eyes.

Some eye care providers and researchers have concerns that the blue light that comes from digital devices can cause harm.

We disagree.

There is no real-world evidence that this is the case. Even if blue light were harmful, the amount of blue light that comes from a digital device decreases exponentially with distance. This means we should all work to ensure that our children are sitting at the appropriate distance from their computers. About arm’s length is ideal. Limit the illumination of the monitor to just what is required to see the screen comfortably.

Computers can be drying to our eyes as we don’t blink as much as we should when we are on a digital device. Taking frequent blink breaks can help with this. For every 20-30 minutes of sustained computer work, we should look away from the screen (ideally far away) and blink for 20 seconds. If this is not sufficient relief, over-the-counter eye drops may be an appropriate adjunct. We can give you more specific advice on the appropriate drops (as it does vary by individual, but it is important to avoid drops that say “get the red out”).

Children are becoming more and more nearsighted globally. This is thought to be due, at least in part, to our world being so close nowadays. That is, rather than being out in the world looking far away, we are now in small rooms reading, using computers, and looking at cell phones. The closeness of objects (and the lack of variability of distances we are looking at) is thought to promote nearsightedness.

While being nearsighted is not a big deal in itself (it just means we need glasses to help us see far away), the more nearsighted one is, the more risk they have for future eye health problems. The later in life one becomes nearsighted, the less nearsightedness one will obtain.

Time outside has been shown to delay the onset of nearsightedness as well as slow the progression of nearsightedness. We recommend 90 minutes of outside time per day (rain or shine). If your child is already nearsighted there are other treatments that can assist in slowing how quickly they are worsening. Talk to us about options.

With all of that (we hope) reassurance, we still feel that it is vital that all children have an annual eye exam to ensure that their visual system is able to clearly see information and accurately process it. If the eyes and brain are struggling to see clearly (or process the information) it leaves little energy left to absorb the material they are learning.

Often times people benefit from a pair of low-power computer glasses that serve to relax their visual system and allow for more comfortable/efficient vision. This is individual dependent, however, and requires an eye exam to determine if it is appropriate for you or your child.

Even if you feel like your child has great distance vision (and even if they have passed a school or pediatrician screening) we recommend a comprehensive exam to ensure that their vision is setting them up to be as successful as possible.

We are happy to see them (and you) go over this information as it pertains to your unique circumstances. Call (503) 723-3000 to schedule an exam!

Stay well.

Keep wearing your mask and physically distancing from others. We can get through this as a community.

Again, we love you, teachers! Thank you for being awesome!